It was 2005 when I fell in love with the United States. It happened on my first trip there. I remember the day very well, it was a Monday in late January. I landed around 3.00 pm in Houston, Texas, and from there immediately drove about 150 miles to Austin, the state capital. Those first three hours in the country left a lasting impression on me. An expanse of skyscrapers in the center of one of the nation’s largest cities, oil wells pumping in the middle of the desert, 10-lane highways loaded with giant cars and at least fifteen gun shop signs standing either side of the highway.
Since that day I’ve travelled to the States twenty or more times, going back for work or to visit the many friends I’ve made over the years. Often I just went for the sake of seeing and living in new places.
My love of the United States has never dwindled. It has influenced my growth and a large part of my work has been done there, taking thousands of photographs and collecting hundreds of stories of Americans. I can perhaps say that I know the United States and its people almost as well as I know my own country, Italy. Yet the country still manages to amaze me. For better or for worse.
For example, a couple of years ago, I read that there are more weapons for private use than there are people in the USA. I immediately thought of my American friends - they have no weapons, as far as I know. And there are a lot of other Americans like them who do not have guns. "So who owns all these firearms?” I wondered. “If so many people don’t own any, then many others must own a lot.” It was because of this curiosity that I walked into a gun shop in Kansas one day and began talking to some of the customers there. “How many guns do you have at home?” I asked. “I have over 50!” one of them answered. Shortly after I was at his house, taking a portrait of him with his entire collection. He was proud to show his arsenal in the same way that a friend would show me their collection of vinyl records, or their collection of watches. At that moment I decided to journey across the country to photograph, interview and discover the part of America that loves guns.
Some of the stories I found through people I knew, but most were found on Instagram and other social media, simply by following profiles with gun-related hashtags. I contacted a few and then went to their homes. My intention was to create a portrait of the weapons culture and of the love that a part of the American population has for firearms.
To take these photographs I used a visual formula that I have used before for other projects: I asked my subjects to show me what they were keeping in the house. Then, I arranged everything in an orderly and geometric way, as if each object was an integral part of the environment surrounding the subject.
The pictures and stories are the result of my research and my journey.